Tournament mobility: career patterns in a corporation

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Promotions and demotions are important events in most people's work lives. This study analyzes the career mobility of a cohort of employees in a large corporation over a 13-year period using official personnel records. Derived from the status-attainment, Markov, and organization-career literatures, two conflicting models of mobility are described: an ahistorical (path independence) model and a historical (tournament) model. The empirical analysis supports the tournament model, finding that mobility in the earliest period of one's career has an unequivocal relationship with many of the most important parameters of one's later career: career ceilings, career floors, and probabilities of promotion and demotion in each successive period. Some speculations are presented about Bowles and Gintis's correspondence principle, about functional and dysfunctional consequences of this selection system, and about the implications of organizational opportunity structures on employees' career behaviors.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)220-242
JournalAdministrative Science Quarterly
StatePublished - Jun 1979


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